Cupressus sempervirens


ITALIAN CYPRESS is tall, to 60 feet or more, and narrowly columnar, 5 to 10 feet wide. At least that is the case with the commonly used cultivars, which are found in mediterranean-type climates around the world (hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters). 

Italian cypress is native around the Mediterranean Sea, but has been in cultivation for so long that the original natural range can only be estimated.  

Italian cypress is impressive in wine country estates and large, formal situations. It is a cemetery tree in both Europe and the Muslim world.

It is long-lived, to 1000 years. Per Wikipedia, in a disjunct population, the Cypress of Abarkah, Iran is over 4000 years old!

The tree is fire-resistant. Wood is fragrant and durable.

Sometimes one sees branches which flop out awkwardly from the vertical. Too much water in summer may be the culprit.

Leaves are tiny, scale-like, on rounded, not flattened, shoots. Globose cones about one inch take two years to mature, and stay on tree for several years.

Range of cultivated forms



Estimated natural range​

in the Mediterranean Basin

Residual natural stands

Italian cypress, also called Mediterranean cypress, has been cultivated for millenia throughout the Mediterranean region. This unusual map shows the extensive range of cultivated forms, the estimated native range, and the very few natural stands.

Nice trees, but awkward in this situation.

Italian cypress is frequently used inappropriately in urban situations, so I was pleasantly surprised to encounter this planting near downtown Oakland, California.

Cypresses (1889), by Vincent van Gogh, captures movement and vitality.